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Profile: U.S. Plans to Influence A New U.N. Resolution On Iraq

All Things Considered: October 17, 2002

U.N. - Iraq



BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council meet in New York today. It's an attempt to resolve differences over a resolution that would authorize force against Iraq. Diplomats at the UN say the Bush administration has proposed compromised language in an effort to overcome French opposition to the original US draft resolution and end a monthlong Security Council deadlock. France, along with Russia and China, wants to give Iraq the opportunity to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors without the threat of force. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

In two days of debate at the UN, member states, one by one, warn they don't want to see the Security Council give a green light to war in Iraq. By the time the Security Council members had a chance to speak, a compromise was already in the works. The US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, told the Security Council late yesterday that the US is close to putting a draft resolution on the table.

Mr. JOHN NEGROPONTE (US Ambassador): We are considering the reactions we have received and will be placing before the council in the near future a resolution with clear and immediate requirements, requirements that Iraq would voluntarily meet if it chooses to cooperate.

KELEMEN: He said a resolution would still make clear there will be consequences if Iraq does not cooperate.

Mr. NEGROPONTE: Iraq will have a choice. It will have to decide whether to take this last chance to comply. We hope that it will choose to comply. If it does not, we will seek compliance and disarmament by other means.

KELEMEN: That's where the US is meeting opposition. Language in an original draft resolution would have authorized member states to use all necessary means to enforce compliance, which the US considers automatic military action. France and Russia balked at that language. At the UN debate on Iraq, French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte repeated his country's desire to approach the crisis in two stages--first, giving weapons inspectors a stronger mandate and then discussing what to do if Iraq doesn't comply. He spoke through an interpreter.

Mr. JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (French Ambassador): (Through Translator) Given the gravity of the situation in which nothing less than peace or war is at stake, it is essential for the Security Council to remain in charge of the process every step of the way. This is fundamental for the legitimacy of our action and essential for maintaining unanimous support for our common objectives.

KELEMEN: US officials have expressed frustration that it's taken five weeks already for one resolution on Iraq and they want to avoid another long-winded debate for a second resolution. So the idea the US is now floating is to at least offer consultations with the Security Council if weapons inspectors meet roadblocks in Iraq. British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock has tried to bridge the gap between Paris and Washington on this point.

Mr. JEREMY GREENSTOCK (British Ambassador): I have heard loud and clear the concerns of many speakers that on a decision so crucial we should not rush into a war, that on a decision so crucial, any Iraqi violations must be discussed by the Security Council.

KELEMEN: He said there would be a detailed Security Council discussion if inspectors report that Iraq is not fully cooperating; a discussion, not necessarily a resolution. As for Russia, its position may be easing. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said he's been assured that a new US draft resolution would take Russia's position into consideration. Nevertheless, Russia's ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov, speaking through an interpreter, warned the US not to detract from the real issue, getting weapons inspectors back.

Mr. SERGEI LAVROV (Russian Ambassador): (Through Translator) If we're talking not about the deployment of the inspections but about an attempt to use the Security Council to create a legal basis for the use of force or even for a regime change of a UN member state, then we see no way how the Security Council could give its consent to that.

KELEMEN: US officials believe they are picking up speed toward a UN resolution and entering the home stretch. But they also predicted speedy UN action when this process started five weeks ago. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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